Torn-Down Tuesday: The ‘visual pollution’ on Buffalo’s Main Street

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Last week’s Torn-Down Tuesday looked at SUNY Buffalo State art professor D.K. Winebrenner’s uppity takedown of fast food architecture.

This week, we look back at the time Winebrenner — who was also the Courier-Express art critic — talked about “visual pollution” hurting Buffalo’s image and postulated that the city’s too many billboards and signs were creating psychological illness in people.

A 1964 photo showing Eagle Street, looking toward Main Street (with AM&A’s visible) from Pearl Street. This part of Eagle Street is now covered by the Main Place Mall.

“While no practical inquest can establish the causes for a diseased spirit with the same objectivity as physicians can pinpoint the reasons for a damaged lung (or a dead fish), what happens to us aesthetically can neutralize or even destroy our visual sensitivities,” wrote Winebrenner.

The story was accompanied by the two photos on this page, both showing signs and buildings that gave way for the Main Place Mall and tower.

“Any given sign may be harmless in itself, and may even be well designed, but the clutter and confusion of crowded, screaming advertisements, each seeking to be heard above all others — results in no one being heard effectively,” wrote Winebrenner, who was excited for future development without signs.

This photo was taken standing at the corner of Niagara and Main– two streets which once intersected across Main from M&T Plaza. What was then “Niagara Street between Main and Pearl” is now covered by the Main Place Mall.

“As we greet the dawn of a new day in downtown Buffalo, let us take one last, quick look at the overhead jungle as it appeared in August 1964, being replaced by the new buildings in Main Place. May this long be remembered as the spot where a greater, more beautiful Buffalo was born.”

Winebrenner couldn’t have known that the new development was ushering in an era spanning several generations where 150 years of life and vitality were stripped from Main Street, signs and all.

Torn-Down Tuesday: Keeping ‘garish, honky-tonk’ look out of Allentown in 1967

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Courier-Express art critic and SUNY Buffalo State art professor D.K. Winebrenner had a weekly column in the Sunday paper where he opined not just on art, but on the state of aesthetic in Buffalo.

In a December 1967 piece, Winebrenner railed against the “commercial invasion” of Allentown.

Neba Roast Beef, Main Street, 1967

“The Chairman of artistic rehabilitation in the area, artist Virginia Tillou, has expressed alarm that stands, restaurants and taverns along this dignified thoroughfare may result in a ‘honky-tonk’ appearance and destroy the efforts of the Allentown Association to upgrade the surrounding area,” wrote Winebrenner.

Red flags went up when Burger Chef opened in the spot now occupied by Tim Hortons on Delaware Avenue near Allen Street. The fear was that Allentown would begin to fill with “garish establishments” like those found in suburbia – especially around Sheridan Drive and Niagara Falls Boulevard.

Mister Donut, Sheridan Drive at Longmeadow, 1967

Winebrenner wrote a scathing commentary on what is now, 50 years later, ubiquitous fast-food architecture.

“There is a new kind of pop architecture that is as audacious (and as annoying) as pop art. It is characterized by a general indifference toward standards and tastes of the past, borrows from dada and art nouveau (past and present), and flaunts architectural precepts (past and present) without batting an eye.

“Referred to casually as ‘hot dog stands,’ these culinary emporiums often specialize in less prosaic edibles such as hamburgers and other sandwiches, doughnuts and coffee, or the gastronomical delight of fried chicken. Some of these pop stands even sell pop.

McDonald’s, Niagara Falls Blvd. near Maple, 1967

“They come in many sizes, all small; and in many shapes, all boxes; but with imaginative appendages that conceal their humble concrete block structures, such as sweeping gable roofs that meet the ground, or more sophisticated modified mansards that mask nonexistent garrets. Often they are crowned with exotic spires and cupolas.

“Gone are the simple structures of local entrepreneurs, (albeit covered with a motley assortment of signs provided by distributors of ginger ale and cola) and in their place are standardized replicas of uniform designs which extol corporate images of national chains from coast to coast.

Kentucky Fried Chicken, across the Boulevard from the Boulevard Mall.

“Fortified with the advice of exterior decorators, the universally uniform trade marts come in bright colors and patterns that stand out against the Cape Cod homes in the suburbs and the pathetic patina of old city buildings, giving an aura of great importance to small structures surrounded by ‘black on black’ mats of black top. The effect is heightened when lighted colors, spotlights and neon tubes contrast with enveloping night.”

Carroll’s Drive In, Niagara Falls Blvd. just north of Sheridan, 1967.

Winebrenner, who was one of the founders of the Charles Burchfield Center at SUNY Buffalo State, died in 1975 at the age of 66. While he might have been pleased that his dissertation on garbage fast-food architecture was found and shared 52 years after it was first written, he probably wouldn’t have been pleased that the driving reason behind sharing the story was to share the wonderful photos of late ’60s eateries that accompanied the original piece.

Torn-Down Tuesday: Laube’s Cafeteria, Pearl and West Eagle streets

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

A 46-year era came to an end in 1968 as Laube’s Cafeteria – first opened in 1922 – closed as business nearly ground to a halt with the building of the Main Place Mall across the street and demolition started for the Rath Building just to the south.

Charles Laube started the restaurant empire, which briefly spread to Rochester, in 1907 after moving to Buffalo from Germany. His first place was called “My Lunch,” a 32-seat diner at 33 Niagara St. When the larger building opened up around the corner at Pearl and West Eagle, Laube hopped at the chance and created one of Buffalo’s most beloved dining spots through the 1930s and 1940s.

The Family Court Building now stands where generations of Buffalonians ate affordable meals at Laubes Cafeteria. Buffalo News archives

The Family Court Building now stands where generations of Buffalonians ate affordable meals at Laube’s Cafeteria. (Buffalo News archives)

Diners catching one last meal before the neon and grills went cold remembered how novel the idea of balcony seating was when the place first opened.

Laubes Cafeteria Buffalo Stories archives

Laube Cafeterias. (Buffalo Stories archives)

“Being taken to Laube’s for lunch before a matinee at the Buffalo Theater was a treat – maybe the best part about coming downtown,” remembered one Buffalonian.

At its peak, 2,000 people a day ate at Laube’s Cafeteria, where the well-known slogan was “famous for food.” Laube’s was also famous for quality and high standards, only giving into the overwhelming savings of paper napkins over cloth napkins within the last few years of operation.

The fate of the Laube’s building was sealed within months of the restaurant’s closure. The City of Buffalo bought the property, and leveled it with hopes of a companion development to Main Place Mall.

The Laube family still operated a cafeteria inside the YMCA as well as a full-service restaurant inside the Lord Amherst Hotel at Main and Kensington in Snyder.

By then, the family’s best remembered restaurant, Laube’s Old Spain, located next door to Shea’s Buffalo Theatre in downtown Buffalo, had already been closed. The City of Buffalo assumed ownership of the Shea’s Buffalo and Laube’s Old Spain building for back taxes at the same auction in 1975.

Laubes Old Spain, Main Street, next to Sheas Buffalo. Later the home of Swiss Chalet, it is now The Sheas Smith Theatre. Buffalo Stories archives

Laube’s Old Spain, was located on Main Street next to Shea’s Buffalo. Later the home of Swiss Chalet, it is now the Shea’s Smith Theatre. (Buffalo Stories archives)

 

Torn-Down Tuesday: Niagara and Amherst streets, 1971

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

“One gateway to Riverside” was the title of this photo when it was published in The News in 1971.

Buffalo News archives

“The photo (is) in the immediate vicinity of Amherst and Niagara Sts., where traffic from the Niagara section of the Thruway makes one of its exits into the Riverside-Black Rock area.

“It IS an old area. Some of its settlers were there before the turn of the century. They were property proud. But the community’s pride has suffered in recent years. Blight has made incursions there too.”

This old tavern was built as a “store block and row of flats” by Frederick Lenz in 1909. A tavern since at least 1919, it was known through the years as Charles Haas’ saloon, Bob & Ginger’s Saloon, the River-Rock Grill, and Millitello’s, among other names.

The building’s location — only yards from the watery international border — made it a hot spot during Prohibition years. In 1929, Augusta Lindforth was arrested behind the bar while tending four half-barrels of beer.

The spot where this building stood — southwest corner of Niagara and Amherst — has been a parking lot for decades now.

Torn-Down Tuesday: Howard Johnson’s on Delaware at North

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The subject of the photo is clearly the women marching in a World War II era Memorial Day parade, but happily captured along with the ladies paying homage to our nation’s war dead is Buffalo’s original Howard Johnson’s Restaurant.

With wartime sugar rationing in effect, in was written, At Howard Johnson's the waitress will bring one lump; two if you insist, and carefully oversees dishing out the bulk sugar for iced tea or coffee. (Buffalo News archives)

With wartime sugar rationing in effect, it was written, “At Howard Johnson’s the waitress will bring one lump; two if you insist, and carefully oversees dishing out the bulk sugar for iced tea or coffee.” (Buffalo News archives)

Generations of Americans remember the homestyle dinners and 28-flavor ice cream selection at the more than 1,000 Howard Johnson’s orange-roofed locations around the country.

Buffalo’s most popular HoJo’s was this one at Delaware and North starting around 1941. The restaurant was a part of the sometimes-strange development of Delaware Avenue. Working class families piled out of wood-paneled, American-made station wagons right across the street from the home of News Publisher and Buffalo aristocrat Edward Butler.

The restaurant was remodeled in 1960, and remained a familiar landmark for the next three decades.

Buffalo Stories archives

Buffalo Stories archives

Walgreens purchased what was Buffalo’s last Howard Johnson’s location and built a drug store at the site on Delaware and North in 1994.

Torn-down Tuesday: Ice cold beers in Williamsville, 1888

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

When Matt Horey died in 1926, he was remembered in The News as “well-known in Williamsville and surrounding areas, having had a place of business at the corner of Main and Cayuga Streets.” The business, depending on which description you believe, was either a hall, a hotel, a saloon or a tavern.

people052

This photo appeared in The News in 1949, courtesy of the Horey family.

Aside from a tavern, Horey’s was also a regular polling place around the turn of the 20th century.

horeys-1900

The building was torn down in 1923 to make way for a bank building, which was a Liberty Bank branch for many years.

liberty-bank

It’s now the home of a Bank of America branch.

Torn-down Tuesday: Shelton Square in 1964

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Until the lifeless and drab Main Place Mall and Tower replaced its character-filled old buildings, billboards and neon signs, Shelton Square was more or less Buffalo’s version of Times Square.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

It was the city’s crossroads; it was bright and vibrant. It was the place where people transferred streetcars and buses — just about every line in the city came through. Standing in Shelton Square, you were a few blocks from the Crystal Beach Boat in one direction, a few blocks from the Town Casino the other way. It was the middle of the action that was Buffalo.

If you remember it, it was a special place.

It was filled with character and characters. There was Domenic Battaglia, who ran the newsstand shown at Niagara and Main starting in 1929 “with his oversized cap, news apron and halfchewed cigar.” His News obituary called him “a goodnatured curmudgeon who was out daily in all kinds of weather to sell newspapers and magazines. He never wore gloves even on the coldest days and often heckled his customers who did.”

buildingss039-11

Battaglia’s newsstand is in front of the Harvey & Carey Drug store at Main and Niagara.

He moved to Main and Church when the entire Niagara Street was eliminated from the map, now underneath the Main Place Tower.

In the very foreground of the photo is the top of the Palace Burlesk sign. George Kunz, whose beautifully crafted memories of days gone by used to appear in The News, wrote “the Palace exuded life. Pedestrians passing during showtime heard raucous, robust sounds of extravagant fun. The orchestra blared, drums rumbled and laughter, a rollicking outrageous laughter, tumbled out the doors onto Main Street.”

“Such was the theater’s fame that for years the Palace was used as a focus for any downtown geographical instructions,” wrote Kunz in 1993. “’You know where the Palace is . . . well, you turn right there.’ Everybody remembered the lively marquee with the dancing girl figures kicking endlessly to the rhythm of blinking lights.”

Right next door to the Palace, disc jockey Tom Clay — known as “Guy King” on WWOL Radio – ushered in the rock ‘n’ roll era in Buffalo on July 3, 1955, when he climbed out of the station’s window and onto the giant WWOL billboard.

There, he urged the teens in his audience to drive to Shelton Square and honk their horns if they wanted to hear Bill Haley and The Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock.” They did in huge numbers, and he kept playing “Rock Around the Clock” until the fire department showed up with a ladder truck to help police get him off the billboard. After climbing back in the station window, he was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for the stunt.

On the pages of The News, Janice Okun wrote about Hughes Restaurant, “the dingy old coffee shop on Shelton Square where you sat on high stools at even higher marble tables and injected fat into yourself in the form of Snappy Cheese Sandwiches, while drinking coffee from a clunky mug carefully. Because if you dropped the mug, it would break a toe.”

Minnie Feiner’s had high tables, too. And there was Minnie Messina’s cafeteria through the ’50s and ’60s.

In 1965, most of the buildings in this photo started to come down. In December, it was announced the new $20 million complex being built in its place was given a name “big enough for such a big project — Main Place.”

This part of Niagara Street is now covered by the Main Place Tower.

This block of Niagara Street, between Main and Pearl, is now covered by the Main Place Tower. City Hall (upper left) and the McKinley Monument were visible from Main Street at Shelton Square until 1968.

At the time, editorial page writers panned the name, saying it wasn’t distinctive and was “anything but appealing.”

One writer said, “It’s a terrible name. It grates on one’s ears. … It certainly wasn’t given too much thought.”

In hindsight, though, it’s probably better that the name many wanted to keep — Shelton Square — was retired. It makes it easier to give a name to the memories.

A 1980's view of Main Street, with the Main Place Mall and Tower on the right, and Woolworth's and AM&A's on the left.

A 1980s view of Main Street, with the Main Place Mall and Tower on the right and Woolworth’s and AM&A’s on the left.

Torn-Down Tuesday: The Bailey Homestead, circa 1880

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

When William Bailey bought the land on both sides of what is now Bailey Avenue between Broadway and William, it was little more than a wooded trail. “Bailey’s Road” became Bailey Avenue when the right of way was donated to the city in 1854.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

After coming to Buffalo via the Erie Canal in 1830, Bailey built his home along Batavia Street, now Broadway, near Bailey Avenue.  The trees cleared from his property became the timber backbone of one of America’s fastest-growing cities in the second half of the nineteenth century. When New York Central first laid down tracks across Buffalo’s East Side, they did it through Bailey’s backyard. He also quarried the stone needed for the railbeds and bridges that New York Central went on to build in the area.

In 1856, Bailey built a palatial home at Franklin and Tupper, which was long remembered as Buffalo’s first building with plate glass windows.

Torn-Down Tuesday: Sattler’s at 998 Broadway

Despite having been gone for almost 35 years, Buffalonians still have only one thought when they hear the address 998 Broadway.

randomDec21014

Buffalo News archives

This photo of Sattler’s location at 998 Broadway was taken the day founder John G. Sattler died in 1941. As a teenager, Sattler opened a shoe store in the living room of his mother’s home at 992 Broadway. His business would grow and add product lines, becoming a marketing juggernaut and the backbone of the Broadway-Fillmore shopping district.

Buffalo News archives, 1978.

Buffalo News archives, 1978.

The store’s odd and interesting array of bargains, big events like their Christmas parade and that first-of-its-kind “Shop and Save at Sattler’s, 998 Broadway” jingle made the store a destination for people from all over Western New York. In the 1960s, Sattler’s became an anchor tenant in a handful of Western New York’s new shopping malls.

The Boulevard Mall Sattlers, 1980. (Buffalo News archives)

The Boulevard Mall Sattler’s, 1980. (Buffalo News archives)

Sattler’s went out of business in 1982, but the landmark Broadway-Fillmore store was stripped of the Sattler name a year earlier. For its final 13 months, it was known as the 998 Clearance Center. It carried castaways from the Main Place, Boulevard and Seneca Mall locations.

The 998 location was torn down in 1988.

Torn-Down Tuesday: Ridge Road’s Golden Arches

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The building still stands, but the golden arches came down — at least figuratively — in October 1984, as one of Western New York’s longest-surviving original McDonald’s hamburger stands served up its last Big Mac.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

After 20 years on Ridge Road, millions of hamburgers served, and employing about 6,000 Lackawanna teens through the years, The Steel City’s only McDonald’s shut its doors as the corporation was looking to modernize the original stands into the more familiar mansard-roofed 1980s buildings.

A similar-looking McDonald’s stand on Clinton Street was torn down and modernized around the same time this one was closed.